Today the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has released final guidance on the use of advanced prostate cancer drug enzalutamide in England and Wales, stating that it is now approved for use on the NHS for men who have already been treated with the chemotherapy drug docetaxel.
This is good news for men because the outright restriction around the use of enzalutamide after treatment with abiraterone - the only other treatment available for men at this stage - has been removed. This is a change from previous drafts, the first of which contained no restriction at all and the second which had proposed a flat ban on use in this way. The Scottish Medicines Consortium approved enzalutamide in November 2013 with no restriction around abiraterone.
Since January Prostate Cancer UK has been spearheading a campaign for the removal of this restriction, with over 13,500 people signing the charity’s petition alongside widespread support from high profile figures such as Sir Michael Parkinson and other organisations such as Tackle Prostate Cancer.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK said: “We are pleased that overall enzalutamide has been approved in England and Wales and that the long contested blanket restriction around use after abiraterone has been lifted. By removing the outright ban, NICE has stated that there is no clinical reason for enzalutamide not being prescribed after abiraterone. However we are not currently clear as to what this ruling will truly mean in reality for the men across the country who have exhausted all other options and are grappling with the final stages of this cruel disease. The bottom line is, will these men be given the potential of extra time with their loved ones or not?
“We strongly expect that after eight long months of dithering NICE has done the right thing, and that men across England and Wales can access this vital drug now. The priority is doing the right thing by those who are standing on the edge of the abyss today and we need to be sure that they are going to start being prescribed the treatment before we confirm our course of action. If it transpires in reality that this is a de facto restriction thinly veiled by complex prose, we will be holding relevant parties to account and will continue our fight to ensure men are not denied enzalutamide after abiraterone.”